Mediation information assessment meetings

The Family Procedure Rules 2010 introduced a new focus on family mediation and tried to encourage parties involved in a family dispute to attend a Mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) before issuing formal Court proceedings. Prior to 22nd April 2014, this was not compulsory, and it placed a lot of trust in lawyers and the courts to encourage this.

The government has now taken this a step further by making MIAMs compulsory, stating in the Children and Families Act 2014 that “Before making a relevant family application, a person must attend a family mediation, information and assessment meeting”.

Attendance of a MIAM doesn't mean that you are agreeing to further family mediation sessions; the MIAM is purely to provide you with information on how family mediation can help.  The initial MIAM is compulsory; further family mediation sessions are not, but should seriously be considered as an option to resolving your situation.  If a MIAM has not taken place, and there are no exemptions, the Courts will refuse to issue applications and Judges will be refuse to hear them.

There are also potential cost implications and sanctions that could be imposed by the court if the process has been ignored. The proceedings could be halted altogether until a MIAM has been completed by the parties.

What is Mediation Information Assessment Meeting?

The fundamental aim of a MIAM is to ensure that both parties to a family dispute are aware of mediation and understand how it could support them during separation and divorce.  Our MIAMs are carried out by a qualified lawyer-mediator who will see you and your ex individually (both parties are required to attend a MIAM) to provide information about the mediation process and assess the suitability of mediation for that particular individual.

The family mediator will also screen for domestic abuse or child abuse issues (either of which could render mediation unsuitable for the parties in question).

The role of the MIAM is, put simply, to assess the circumstances of your case, provide information about family mediation, advise on the availability of funding, and determine suitability.

What is the process of a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting?

Attending a MIAM may seem a daunting process, and may feel like another hurdle to jump when you are purely looking for a simple solution.  However, we like to make things as easy as possible as we understand that you will already be under a significant amount of stress and pressure.  When you are looking to make a court application, the role of the MIAM is a crucial, but straightforward one.

Any application to Court will require you to show that you have either been awarded a MIAM exemption or that you have attended a MIAM. In the latter case, the mediator will sign a form to show that the MIAM has been completed. Our family mediators are qualified to do this for you.

If you have not provided proof that you have attended a MIAM, or that an exemption exists, the Court will refuse to issue your application.

The next step is for your application to be passed to a Gatekeeping Judge, who will make a decision as to whether the criteria have been met.  The Judge will then either order you and your ex to attend a MIAM if he feels the criteria haven’t been met, or allow the case to continue to the first hearing.

Once at the first hearing, there can still be delays if the Judge decides the couple should attend a MIAM and they haven’t.  It is also important to note that by this stage you will have paid out legal fees and court fees, so it is always better to attend the MIAM prior to making your court application, even if you feel you would be eligible for an exemption.

Who can provide Mediation Information Assessment Meetings?

Not every mediator is authorised to provide MIAMs.  Only those mediators who fulfil the government’s stringent criteria can do so.  They must hold specific qualifications, belong to a member organisation of the Family Mediation Council, hold professional indemnity insurance, meet certain requirements for continuing professional development, have a professional practice supervisor and be in active practice as a mediator. They must also complete a further, rigorous Family Mediation Council course.

There is now a Family Mediation Council register which can be found on their website link to their website here.

What are the exemptions to attending a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting?

There are specific situations in which a MIAM exemption can be applied for, however these are extreme circumstances and even if requested, will not necessarily be granted by the Gatekeeping Judge. The consequences of applying for an exemption and being refused will be worse than attending a MIAM initially, as you will then be sure that you have complied with the MIAM regulations and your court application should not be delayed.

More detailed information can be found on the application form, but the primary exemptions include:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Child protection concerns
  • Previous MIAM attendance or previous MIAM exemption
  • Contact details of the respondent are not sufficient for contact to be made
  • An application without notice
  • One of the parties is subject to a disability or other inability that would prevent attendance at a MIAM unless appropriate facilities can be offered by an authorised mediator
  • One of the parties is in prison or any other institution
  • One of the parties is subject to bail conditions that prevent contact with the other person
  • One of the parties is subject to a licence with a prohibited contact requirement in relation to the other person
  • One of the parties is not habitually resident in England and Wales
  • One of the parties is a child
  • There are no mediators within a 15 mile radius who are available to conduct a MIAM within 15 business days
  • There is no mediator within a 15 mile radius
Who can provide Mediation Information Assessment Meetings?

We charge £100 + VAT for an individual MIAM.  To complete the necessary documentation, namely a form FM1, without a meeting (where that is allowed) costs £75+VAT.

Is Legal Aid available for Mediation Information Assessment Meetings?

The landscape of Legal Aid has changed dramatically since 2013, and eligibility for it is now restricted to a small amount of cases, mainly those where domestic abuse is a factor.  Even in this scenario, proof of domestic abuse against you or your child must be supplied.

Further information detailing the evidence that must be provided can be found on either of the following links:

Legal Aid remains available for family mediation and we will assess your eligibility and refer you to a legal aid supplier if appropriate.

Could family mediation be right for me?

Family mediation isn’t a perfect solution, and it isn’t suitable for everyone, but until somebody gives you impartial, unbiased information about mediation and how it might work in your case you cannot know for sure.  Family mediation is often beneficial to parties involved in a family related dispute, particularly those pertaining to children and finances.

Firstly, it provides the parties with an opportunity to pause and reflect on the nature of their differences.  It takes place in an environment with a trained mediator present who can help the parties work towards reaching agreement on their issues.

Mediation can also save a lot of time and stress and can help to preserve the future relationship of the parties. This, of course, is particularly important where children are involved.

Mediation incurs a lower overall expense when a couple share the cost of the mediator, rather than each having to pay for their own lawyers to negotiate on their behalf and issue potentially expensive court proceedings.

If you have questions about Mediation Information Assessment Meetings or family mediation, contact the team on 023 8071 7431, email mediation@warnergoodman.co.uk.

 

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